MINNEAPOLIS — Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher dominated the middle linebacker position like few others, and Randy Moss and Terrell Owens were two of the NFL’s greatest receivers. All four were rewarded for their transcendent careers Saturday and soon will take their place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
All-Pro free safety Brian Dawkins, who helped transform Philadelphia’s defense during a long career with the Eagles, will join his four renowned peers in Canton.
Former Packers guard Jerry Kramer and former Oilers linebacker Robert Brazile were selected as senior candidates, and former Redskins and Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard was chosen in the contributor category. The Hall of Fame induction will be held in August.
“I’ve accomplished a lot of things,” Lewis said, “but this moment is unexplainable. I want to go fishing with a cigar now. I don’t want to work out every day now.”
Lewis was the Ravens’ first-round pick in 1996 and played his entire 17-year career with Baltimore. He was the central figure in the Ravens’ 2000 Super Bowl championship team, which set a 16-game regular-season record for fewest points allowed (165). Lewis earned MVP honors as Baltimore beat the Giants, 34-7, in Super Bowl XXXV.
Owens and Moss were the NFL’s dominant receivers during their era and often were compared to one another. Owens was in his third year of eligibility, having failed to reach the final 10 candidates his first two years because of concerns about his volatile personality. But his numbers were too good to keep him out any longer.
Owens, who was critical of the Hall of Fame process after being snubbed, left Minneapolis earlier in the week to spend time in Los Angeles. He’s expected to return to the scene of Super Bowl LII in time for Sunday’s Eagles-Patriots game.
A third-round pick of the 49ers in 1996, Owens had 15,934 receiving yards, second only to Jerry Rice, and his 153 touchdowns are eighth all-time.
Moss, who also was criticized for his occasional fits of temper and his admission that he didn’t always run hard on every route, was a transformative talent during his career, mostly with the Vikings and Patriots. “I tried to maintain and keep my composure and stay even-keeled,” said Moss, who is only the third receiver to make the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. “I don’t mean this as any disrespect, but I didn’t pay attention to the process. I didn’t really want to get tied up in [the voting].”
Urlacher played his entire 13-year career with the Bears after being drafted in the first round in 2000. He was the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year and was the league’s overall Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. Urlacher finished with 41 ½ sacks and 22 interceptions in 182 games.
“It was definitely stressful up until today,” he said. “It’s such a great class. I’m glad I don’t have to vote, because it would be really hard to pick.”
Dawkins, who had 37 interceptions and 26 sacks, was part of an Eagles team that went to four NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl under Andy Reid. He was a four-time All-Pro selection in a career that lasted from 1996-2011.
Kramer and Brazile were selected as senior candidates. Kramer, one of the league’s top guards during the Packers’ heyday of the 1960s, played 130 games and is widely acclaimed for throwing the key block on Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak that won the 1967 NFL Championship Game.
Brazile was one of the game’s best outside linebackers with the Oilers from 1975-84 and was nicknamed “Dr. Doom” by his peers. Giants Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor said Brazile was “me before me.”
THE CLASS OF 2018
GM Redskins, Chargers GM
LB Houston Oilers
S Eagles, Broncos
WR Vikings, Raiders, Patriots
WR 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills